Friday, 7 June 2013

#ESPspotlight Review: AFTER EARTH (MOVIE)

Let me tell you why you need to see the new Smith family blockbuster, After Earth, out today.

Brit Sophie Okonedo stars as Will's wife, Faia Raige
Directed by M. Night ShyamalanAfter Earth is the coming of age story of young cadet Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) and his quest to make his father Cypher (Will Smith), proud. Set 100 years in the future, humans have pillaged the environment until the race as we know it are forced to evacuate our volatile planet in favour of 'Mankind's new home' - Nova Prime. Extreme weather conditions are far from the only Earthly danger though. Giving new meaning to the term 'Animal Kingdom', the food chain has a new Ruler. The 'Ursa' is a new breed of blind alien that literally preys on human fear. Notorious for being the only soldier to survive it in battle, the loss of his eldest daughter Senshi (ZoĆ« Kravitz) to the predator, who sacrificed herself to protect a young Kitai, has forced Cypher to retrain his emotional responses to an ironically inhuman default setting. Whilst this makes him the only adversary capable of defeating the alien, that lack of emotion strains the relationship with his now teenage son to breaking point by the time their spaceship crash lands right back on Earth.

The only survivors, Cypher is critically wounded and the only means of rescue is a distress beacon which of course, just so happens to be in the half of their ship that crashed a whole dark scary forest of a distance away, leaving the responsibility of raising the search and rescue alarm to Kitai (cue a chorus of 'Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My...'). Guided part way by a controlling Cypher, the journey provides the opportunity to accomplish far more than just getting from Point A to B. "Danger is very real, but fear is a choice" says the warrior dad. But with no choice but to rely on each other to survive; the father and son are forced to put those words to the test as they confront the biggest obstacle between them - who is really to blame for Senshi's death.

Currently 'tanking' at the US box office, with mostly (unfair) bad reviews, as much as this is a typical, Hollywood Sci-fi blockbuster (and thus outside of Shyamalan's wheelhouse); the action, incredible stunts and futuristic gadgets are actually the smallest point of interest in this production. With a storyline that  could (and has in some opinions) go so cheesily wrong, what is really gripping about this, are the struggles and internal battles between Father and Son. A rite of passage in it's truest definition of the term; the real story - and where Shyamalan succeeds - is about the struggle for acceptance between the two. Though a Sci-fi epic by genre, in reality this is a continuation of the relationship that we first witnessed in The Pursuit of Happyness. Smith Snr once commented on the 'little things' that made the on-screen chemistry between the two all the more real; the instinctive reflexes that would not exist between two actors coming together for the first time on set. When they argue, you believe it. When Cypher dominates and almost suffocates Kitai, you believe it. And as you watch Cypher's emotional response as he watches Kitai almost lose his life, you know that Will Smith is panicking at the too real fear of losing Jaden.

If you didn't know it before, or you thought his Karate Kid performance was the best that you were going to get from Jaden, know that you are very, very wrong. In this roleSmith Jr firmly establishes himself as a breakout star in his own right. Where most may have to worry about falling at the child-to-adult star hurdle; Jaden proves himself capable of standing on his own two feet throughout. One could argue that the entire production was set up to make him standout, with the original story being the brainchild of a father who not only took the backseat and gave him top billing, but also strengthens a production team that includes his mother (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and uncle (Caleeb Pinkett). But even without them, there is no way that you can dispute Master Jaden's talents when he not only steps out from his father's acting shadow, but goes toe-to-toe with it, cementing his own...

I had previously said that Iron Man 3 was my film of the year so far, but I think this Smith family outing may have just trumped it. In cinemas nationwide today, After Earth is nothing short of an A+.

Visit the film's dedicated website / Follow After Earth on Facebook / Read the latest film news on Twitter or even go for the G+ updates!

Have a great one!
ES ;)